severe obstructive sleep apnea

What Is Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that takes place at night when you’re sleeping. When it happens, you stop breathing partially or completely for many seconds at a time. These pauses can occur many times per hour and can cause you to have restless sleep, and sometimes even wake you up with a big gasp of air and a feeling that you’re choking. This disorder happens because the tongue, the tonsils and the other soft tissues in the back of your throat tend to collapse at night as we grow older and as we gain weight, disrupting the flow of air in the airways. This often results in snoring and difficulty breathing at night. While mild symptoms are not unhealthy and are considered normal when you sleep, severe obstructive sleep apnea can be very dangerous to your health.

Calculating the severity of sleep apnea with the AHI index

The severity of obstructive sleep apnea is calculated using the apnea-hypopnea index, or AHI index. This index is basically the number of times during an hour where you either completely stop breathing (each one of those occurrences are called apneas), or where you have sufficient difficulty breathing that your blood oxygen level decreases below a certain threshold, which is usually a decrease of 4% of your blood oxygen level (those are called hypopneas).

To be qualified as a sleep apnea sufferer, a normal person without any other health condition must have 15 of those episodes during an hour. For people who have insomnia, high blood pressure, and other health conditions that can affect or be affected by sleep, this threshold is lowered to 5 episodes of apnea-hypopnea per hour because they are more sensitive to a lack of sleep.

People who have severe obstructive sleep apnea, on the other hand, can have 30 or more episodes of apnea-hypopnea per hour, which means that they have an AHI index of 30 or more. Using the follow AHI table, you can calculate the severity of your sleep apnea:

Mild: 5-15 AHI
Moderate: 15-30 AHI
Severe: 30+ AHI

What are the symptoms of severe obstructive sleep apnea?

The symptoms are relatively easy to observe if you watch a person who suffers from severe obstructive sleep apnea during the night. Many times per hour, you will be able to notice the person having difficulty breathing or stopping breathing completely for many seconds. You will most likely hear heavy snoring, snorting and choking sounds throughout the night.

As far as the sufferer is concerned, he will wake up in the morning without feeling refreshed, often with a dry mouth and throat. He might experience morning headaches, difficulty concentrating during the day, mood changes and irritability. At night, he might wake up with a big gasp of air and a feeling that he his choking.

What are the dangers of severe obstructive sleep apnea?

This is a very dangerous condition to your health. It can cause death if left untreated. It increases the risks of heart failure, heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases. It can induce strokes, increase blood pressure and the chance to develop type-2 diabetes.

Are there any treatments for this severe sleep disorder?

Thankfully, severe obstructive sleep apnea is treatable. There are various treatments available, one of the most effective one being the use of a CPAP breathing machine. Sometimes, a surgical procedure can be considered to remove excessive soft tissues from the back of the throat.

In any case, consulting a healthcare professional is the thing to do if you think you suffer from sleep apnea. He will be able to properly diagnose you, often with the use of a test in a special sleep clinic, and present you with the best treatment possible for your particular situation.

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